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Williams counters crash claim

19970918

IMOLA (Agencies via Xinhua) — Lawyers representing Frank Williams moved to counter claims on Tuesday that a mechanical failure caused Ayrton Senna's fatal crash here at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

The trial into Senna's fatal accident re-opened with the Brazilian's steering column in his (Williams) car once again in the spotlight.

State prosecutor Maurizio Passarini claims that Senna's modified column failed as the triple world champion took the Tamburello curve, sending his car into a concrete wall at high speed.

Italian ex-Formula One driver Michele Alboreto told Imola magistrate Antonio Costanzo on Tuesday: "On that bend, you don't go off unless there's a mechanical failure."

The former Ferrari driver said that the stresses and strains on the steering column at a circuit like Imola meant there would be some flexing — "of the order of a few millimetres, two or three."

Alboreto, called to testify by Passarini, told reporters afterwards: "Having seen the pictures from Senna's car, I'm even more convinced that it was a technical problem which caused the crash.

"There's videotape which shows the (flexing) movement of the steering wheel was two or three centimetres. If this film is accepted as evidence in court, it will prove that something was wrong with Senna's car.

"No steering wheel moves a few centimetres."

Six men face manslaughter charges after the tragedy here — team owner Williams, technical director Patrick Head and chief designer Adrian Newey, along with three race officials.

Williams lawyers later sought to counter Alboreto's claim, producing a film made in a laboratory using a 1994 car taken from the team's Formula One museum.

The film, which has a driver at the wheel simulating the same movements as those made during a race, according to the defence, indicates that the steering wheel did move several centimetres in normal circumstances.

However, the film did not impress the state prosecutor.

The three officials — Federico Bendinelli, head of the Sagis company which manages the Imola circuit, clerk of the course Giorgio Poggi and Roland Bruynseraede, then the race delegate of the sport's ruling International Automobile Federation — are all due to appear in court on September 23.

Williams, Head and Newey are due here on October 3.

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